Session: Addressing Experiences of Secondary Trauma Among Researchers in the Field of Trauma Survivors (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

151 Addressing Experiences of Secondary Trauma Among Researchers in the Field of Trauma Survivors

Friday, January 15, 2016: 5:15 PM-6:45 PM
Ballroom Level-Congressional Hall C (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Catherine E. Buttner, MSW, Rutgers University, Jane E. Palmer, MSW, PhD, American University, Judy L. Postmus, PhD, Rutgers University and Julia O'Connor, MSW, MPH, Rutgers University
Secondary traumatic stress (STS), or secondary trauma, is an established concern among service providers working with victims or survivors of trauma such as individuals who have experienced child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, or stalking. However, because much of the literature reflects the experiences of direct providers, it remains silent on the experiences of research professionals. This oversight neglects the possibility that researchers are affected by researching traumatic experiences can result in a feeling of isolation. While some of the tasks of researchers remove a level of face-to-face interaction, they are no less exposed to traumatic language and emotions. Researchers need to cultivate tools to manage STS and be supported in their efforts towards understanding and coping with their experiences. From this knowledge and awareness, informed researchers will be able to cultivate practices that are supportive of self-care needs and the potential for STS.

This workshop includes a distinguished panel of four social science researchers from Rutgers University and American University. These researchers will describe their respective substantive areas and offer their thoughts about studying trauma and experiences with secondary trauma. Panelists will also address the conference theme of grand challenges for social work through a discussion of how unaddressed STS and a lack of awareness for the needs of researchers hinders the field’s ability to effectively move the collective agenda for social change forward. Panelists will also address setting a research agenda as it relates to the challenge of managing secondary traumatic stress for researchers studying trauma related topics.

The following topics will be discussed: 1) defining Secondary Traumatic Stress; 2) identifying risk factors that might make researchers more vulnerable to STS; 3) symptomology of STS;  4) tools to manage and prevent STS; 5) gaps in the literature; and 6) implications for research and policy.

The workshop will include a discussion of current best practices in managing and preventing STS among research professionals. During a ninety-minute session, panelists will address the topics above through prepared presentations, interactive learning through the use of handouts and small group exercises, and will wrap up the session with audience questions and a group discussion.

By the end of the workshop participants will be familiar with the various forms of STS. Participants will also have the knowledge to identify possible triggers for STS, possible symptoms, and helpful practices to address the challenges associated with conducting trauma-related research. Participants will also be able to identify areas for future research, policy development, and practice techniques sensitive to the effects of secondary traumatic stress.

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